Smoking prevalence and consumption in Victoria: key findings from the 1998–2006 population surveys

Germain D, Wakefield M, Durkin S, Siahpush M 

CBRC Research Paper Series No. 23

Since 1998, there has been a significant overall linear decline in regular smoking prevalence across the years, decreasing to 18.2% in 2006.  Although in 2006 a higher percentage of males were regular smokers compared to females (20.1% and 16.4%, respectively), analyses indicate that regular smoking prevalence among males declined significantly over this period, while a strong trend toward a significant decline existed among females.

In 2006, older Victorians (aged 50 years or more) were less likely to be regular smokers (10.5%) than were younger Victorians aged 18-29 years (26.2%) and those aged 30-49 years (21.2%).  Trends indicate that smoking rates among younger (aged 18-29 years) Victorians have remained steady across the years 1998 to 2006, while over this period there was a significant decline in smoking rates among Victorians aged 30-49 years and 50 years or more.

In 2006, regular smoking prevalence was significantly lower among those with a tertiary qualification (13.8%), compared with those who had a Year 12/part tertiary education (19.6%), and those who had completed their education up to Year 11 or less (22.8%).  Trends from 1998 to 2006 indicate that smoking rates among Victorians with different education levels did not significantly change across this period.  However, there was a trend toward a decline in regular smoking among those with a Year 12/part tertiary education.

Victorians living in areas with high levels of advantage and low levels of disadvantage (the top 24% of Victorian postcode areas on a scale of relative socio-economic advantage/disadvantage) were significantly less likely to be a regular smoker (16.1%) compared with those living in less advantaged areas (20.1% for those living in areas ranked 75% or below).  Regular smoking rates significantly declined between the period 1998 to 2006 for this higher socio-economic group, while there was a trend toward a significant decline in smoking among those in the lower socio-economic group.

The proportion of heavy smokers (25 or more cigarettes/day) among Victorian adults declined significantly across the period 1998 to 2006 (down to 15.7% in 2006), while over this period there was a significant increase in the proportion of light smokers (less than 15 cigarettes per day) (up to 54.7% in 2006). Similarly, cigarette consumption declined significantly among regular smokers (daily/weekly smokers) across the period 1998 to 2006, from a high of 17.6 cigs per day in 1999, down to 14 cigs per day in 2006.  Results also indicate a significant decline in consumption among daily smokers, down to 15 cigs per day in 2006 from a high of 18 cigs in 1998.

Overall, findings indicate that smoking prevalence has continued its decline since 1998.  Although younger Victorians, males and those with a lower level of education remain the most likely to smoke regularly, trends indicate smoking rates among these Victorians have also declined consistently over the years.